The Drive’s First Annual Revvies
The Academy awards Oscars for cinematic excellence. We’re bestowing accolades for Hollywood’s undersung automotive accomplishments.
Sunday’s upcoming, masturbatory and monochromatic fête that is the 88th annual Academy Awards is shaping up to be yet another trite affair, devoid of real tension—save whether we’ll be treated to Leonardo DiCaprio’s losing facefor a seventh time. Our favorite from this year’s crop of hopefuls is clearly the octane-fueled Mad Max: Fury Road, which also outpaces the bulk of the field with 10 nods. While we’re hoping it rides into Oscar Valhalla, all shiny and gold, we wanted to highlight other moments of automotive brilliance that graced the screens this year.
Enter the Revvie, The Drive’s accolade for all manner of four-wheeled distinction. Our categories and recipients are as follows:
Best Car Chase: Spectre
With an Aston Martin DB10 and a Jaguar C-X75 squaring off, the latest James Bond film serves up a battle of the Brits. 007’s pilfered prototype V12 screams around Rome’s iconic cobblestone streets, hell bent on putting car lengths between Bond and a concept Jaguar super coupe piloted by Dave Bautista’s baddie, Mr. Hinx. Filming such a riveting and elongated pursuit wasn’t cheap—the scene alone climbed into the tens of millions of dollars—and producers shot all night outside the Vatican to reap a scant four seconds of usable footage. Seven specially crafted Aston Martins were decimated during production. It was worth it.
Most Spectacular Car Carnage: San Andreas
This movie about a magnitude 9 earthquake emanating from California’s titular fault was a disaster both in terms of plot and critical reception. But the car mayhem can’t be beat. The first scene, which depicts a Subaru Forester sliding off a mountain road before tumbling end over end, pausing mid-drop to go slo-mo, is sublime. As is watching a Lincoln Town Car trying to speed out of a crumbling underground garage only to be swallowed whole by a surprise sinkhole.
Best Movie Promotion: Ride Along 2
Stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube did two types of promo appearances to hawk their buddy cop sequel. There were lame ones, like the stint on The Bachelor which inexplicably ends with a nude Hart climbing out of a hot tub. (No one wants to see that tiny blur, Kevin.) But there was also pure viral awesomeness, like the pair’s turn on Conan. Teaching Conan O’Brien’s intern how to drive by shouting “You’re my bitch!” at fellow drivers then taking her to a weed dispensary is inspired. It’s one of the few times you’ll watch an 11-minute YouTube video and wish it was longer. Proof:
The birth of hip-hop and slammed Chevy Impalas go hand-in-hand. The N.W.A. biopic does the ‘64 stunner justice by including a slew of shiny models. The movie’s opening shot centers on a parked Impala, resting low, and it only gets better from there. Whether it’s Easy E in a silver coupe pulling up to the police station, a topless cherry number bouncing mightily in front of the club, a white hardtop creeping askew on three wheels, or a metallic maroon SS variant, you won’t have to wait long to see a fabulously restored third-gen roll into frame like a proper west coast cruise-fest.
Best Land Yachts: Black Mass
Chronicling the rise and fall of iconic Boston mobstah Whitey Bulger throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, this movie treads heavily during two decades when boxy largess was de rigeur for auto manufacturers. Four-wheeled boats that handled like drunk elephants were everywhere, and the Johnny Depp-helmed biopic showcases a bunch of the bleak beasts. All the staples make a cameo, including five different Cadillac DeVilles, several Chevrolet Caprices, a trio of Buick LeSabres, and the original luxury behemoth, the Lincoln Continental. The smartly curated melange of wide-bodied barges is enough to set your grandfather’s tongue wagging.
Best Stunt Driving: Mad Max: Fury Road
Part of why this two-hour frenetic sprint through a post-apocalyptic wasteland was so visually engaging is how little it relied on CGI. That meant building a fleet of custom vehicles solely to annihilate them, and employing an army of stunt people—up to 150 for a single shot—to record more than 300 action sequences. Motocross riders trained for months to jump over Imperator Furiosa’s war rig, drop a bomb and land safely. Factor in the fact that several bikes had to fly over the monstrosity at the same time and you realize what a tremendous logistical undertaking just that scene was, let alone a whole movie filled with even crazier stunts. The majority of crashes, flips and explosions were real, and the raw footage looks as impressive as the finished product, as evidenced by the behind-the-scenes mashup below. Oh, what a lovely movie!
Matt Damon’s Mark Watney is a resourceful, brilliant, and remarkably chipper NASA scientist—despite having been abandoned for dead on the Red Planet. It doesn’t take him long to convert a multi-wheeled crawler into a interstellar SMS device-slash-thermal heater before embarking on an expansive slog across the undulating, rocky planet. For the flick, a Dakar rally builder whipped up two working iterations of the rover and shipped them to Jordan, Earth’s body double for Mars.
Scariest 1HP Chase: The Revenant
In the most ballyhooed film of the Oscars, marauding Native Americans awaken a still-recuperating Leonardo DiCaprio when their posse clomp up, presumably to scalp him. (That is not the kind of posse DiCaprio prefers.) The bedraggled trapper mounts his steed and gallops away through an open plain, picking off encroaching Natives with his trusty pea shooter. Unable to break free and facing an imminent arrow in the back, DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass character and his stallion abruptly fly off the side of a cliff, falling some 50 feet into a thicket of pine trees. The jarring conclusion to the chase left most audiences aghast.
Matthew Heineman’s documentary about the Mexican drug war offers a dual narrative, switching between a slightly misguided leader of the Arizona Border Recon, remarkably armed citizens who relish in catching traffickers, and Dr. Jose Mireles, who helms the Autodefensas, a ramshackle group of Mexican nationals struggling to undermine the cartels from within their besieged towns and villages. Viewers ride along with both groups as automatic rifles poke from windows of cars, and crouch behind bullet-riddled rides for cover when intense gun battles sporadically break out. Hats off to Heineman for having the courage to sit shotgun, occasionally facing fire from actual guns. It’s no surprise this was nominated for Best Documentary.
Greatest East German Warthogs: Man from U.N.C.L.E
When a Wartburg is pitted against a Trabi in the summer reboot of the 60’s show, the real winner is the audience. A heavily choreographed driving sequence sees the two dance across the screen, jockeying for position. In the film, the Wartburg emerges victorious—though in real life the Trabi squashed the ‘Burg with a production run that extended two and a half decades longer. The Trabant 601 was the East German answer to West Germany’s VW Beetle, and proved to be as approachable, reliable, and fixable as the beloved Bug.
Best Automotive Documentary: Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman
Paul Newman’s 30-year-plus racing career was legendary. He graced the top of the podium in national races four times and enjoyed another eight victories as an owner. Yet no one was eager to tell the track czar’s storied tale until Adam Carolla undertook the endeavor with this insightful and touching documentary. Carolla, a fanatic gearhead in his own right, shelled out more than $1 million to snap up 37 of Newman’s cars, including many of his beloved Datsuns and Nissans. Carolla’s star power helped get the likes of Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Mario Andretti and more in front of the camera to talk about what made Newman such an indomitable goliath behind the wheel.
Best Product Placement: Audi in Avengers: Age of Ultron
Audi shelled out a pretty penny to weave nearly their entire product line into the Marvel universe. As Tony Stark’s preferred brand, you’ll find an A3 and A3 Cabrio, A4, A6, R8, RS 7, RS Q3, S Q5, and a TTS. That’s a heap of refined German powerhouses all popping up in a single film. Some are just decorative eye candy, parked in the background, though the R8 and A3 drop top see a bit of action. On the fly during the collapse of a city, snaking around crumbling buildings, the A3 wears a thin patina of grime with particular aplomb.
Best Bimmerfest: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
It may be quicker to list the BMWs not featured in Rogue Nation, given that the number tallies more than 15. Never one to shy away from a stunt, Tom Cruise tears around in a bunch of them, most notably an M3 that careens backwards down a staircase and atop an S 1000R motorcycle for a thrilling chase. Bimmer’s support crew retarded all the stability and safety systems to enable four-wheel drifting and the other stunts portrayed while Cruise, no novice to speed, further honed his wheel skills at a few tracks in the U.K. prior to filming. While BMW did pay to play, they took a contrarian stance to Audi and Avengers, purposefully requesting no lingering logo close-ups or brand mentions from the characters. Props for that.
Best CGI Paul Walker: Furious 7
Walker’s tragic death came after only a fraction of the film had been completed, leaving Universal in an expensive bind. The solution was to use Walker’s brothers, Cody and Caleb, as body doubles and then digitally add Paul’s face in post-production. With the right lighting and carefully selected angles, the finished product is impeccable. The ending was also reconfigured, to give Walker the tear-jerking send-off he deserved.